Make the Most of Your Early Career

At the AIChE 2015 Spring Meeting in Austin, TX the Young Professionals Committee (YPC) organized the session Setting Yourself Up for Success: Tips for Making the Most of Your Early Career, during which a panel of five chemical engineers with diverse work experience and backgrounds offered advice to budding chemical engineers in a question-and-answer style panel discussion.

Greg Yeo of Exxon Mobil, Wendy Young Reed of Chemstations, Marco J. Castaldi of The City College of New York (CUNY), Laura Leonard of UOP LLC, and Katherine Ziemer of Northeastern Univ. participated on the panel.

Five careers worth of advice was packed into this session, but here are some of the top tips:

  • In an interview, be genuine and show your character. Display not only your technical knowledge, but also why someone would want to work with you every day.
  • Try lots of different things to better understand your strengths and interests.
  • Have a vision of where you want your career to go, but be open to the various paths that could take you there.
  • While you’re figuring out your career plan, bloom where you are planted.
  • Don’t let rejection of your ideas make you lose your confidence. Success is earned through grit and perseverance.
  • Know your chemical engineering fundamentals. And if there are gaps in your understanding of a topic, fill those gaps by simply researching and reading.
  • You can quickly become the expert in the room if you have the most recent research.
  • You don’t need to have a management role to be a leader.
  • Anticipate tasks that need to be done, and also be responsible for tying up loose ends.
  • It’s okay not to know or understand something. Ask for help, and use this opportunity to build rapport and relationships.
  • Always make sure you are actively listening to show respect. You will earn respect in return.
  • If you stop learning in your position, it is time to move on.
  • To build experience or to try out a new position before changing careers, volunteer with AIChE.